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It sold for $132,000 (£94,285) which comes close to the sterling auction high for a club of £95,000 ($152,000) paid for a c.1800 iron putter sold by Christie’s‚ as part of the Royal Perth Golf Club Collection in Edinburgh in 1998. It would certainly appear to be the highest price paid for a wood, as opposed to an iron.

The most fashionable club for collectors of early golfing memorabilia is currently the blacksmith-made iron. These hand-wrought clubs crafted in the late 18th/early 19th centuries are instantly recognisable and, when the market is moving, there are usually three or four examples offered for sale each year.

The earliest wooden play clubs are a rather more rarified collecting area. The form of the long-nosed play club changed little between the mid 18th century and the end of the 19th century, which makes these clubs less iconic status symbols. They are also a great deal scarcer and market precedents are few and far between.

In fact, the mid-18th-century play club offered for sale on March 18 by Sloan’s in association with International Golf Auctions (15/10 per cent buyer’s premium) was probably the oldest wood that is likely to come onto the market for many years to come.

It bears several 18th century characteristics: a 4ft (1.22m) hickory shaft and a thornwood head with an extended lead weight to the heel, a thick horn plate to the face and a 3/4-inch neck. The red silk/wool damask used for the ‘listing’‚ grip dated to the 18th century and was quite probably original to the club.

According to Bob Gowland of International Golf Auctions, there is only a handful of these clubs extant, the majority already housed in permanent Scottish collections such as Royal Troon, the Royal and Ancient at St Andrews, the Royal Musselburgh and the Royal Burgess. This example which had a provenance to Goodwood Golf Club and was offered for sale here by an American vendor carried an estimate of $100,000-120,000.

There were a number of American collectors prepared to pay this sort of money, but the obvious candidate for the purchase of such a venerable object was Jamie Ortiz Patino, whose Valderrama Golf Club in Spain is home to the finest collection of early golfing memorabilia in the world. Valderrama, represented in the world’s auction rooms by London dealer Titus Kendall, has proved the biggest player at golf memorabilia sales in the past two decades and Mr Kendall was there at the end to take this piece back across the pond.